film response: Melancholia


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The latest from Lars von Trier doesn’t work as sci-fi for me. It doesn’t work as psycho-drama for me, either. Since everything that comes after is telegraphed by the stunning slo-mo dioramas of the first few minutes I can’t think of a reason, other than a frequently impressive but unevenly directed Dunst, to watch any more than that.

The comparison between the oncoming fly-by planet to Kirsten Dunst’s mental state is so obvious and so sparely fleshed out, depending exclusively on an endlessly repeated series of mildly odd behavior patterns on the part of Dunst and not on a rich back story or socio-cultural milieu, and that combined with a general lack of affinity for the genre von Trier is borrowing from, resulted in my caring very little for what was happening in either realm. Gainesbourg tearfully tries to make up for that lack in the second part of the film but by then I’d pretty much checked out.

So, Melancholia the hidden planet is not a metaphor with suggestive meanings and interpretations; it’s a near one to one equivalency with little depth.

Further, there’s too much of a disconnect stylistically between the opening sequence and rest of the film, which is composed of a lot of hand-held shots in typical von Trier style and peppered with cameos by great actors pretending to be characters that I guess are supposed to lend the scenario some weight all by themselves.

I enjoyed von Trier’s Antichrist quite a bit, finding it dark, funny, beautifully wrought and acted. But perhaps, most of all there were elements of mystery that deepened the experience.

If you want to see an indie sci-fi that addresses the failures I mentioned above, check out Another Earth.

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